Jesus healed a lot of people during the course of his earthly ministry. His methods were as varied as the patients themselves. He reached out and touched lepers with His hands. He drove out fevers and demons with a command. He healed a paralytic by first forgiving His sins and then telling him to pick up his mat and go home. He healed a woman seemingly by accident when she reached out and touched his robe. He healed multitudes who sought him out to be made whole. He sought out individuals to be healed in the tabernacle for all to see (on the Sabbath, no less). He even healed people who were too sick to come into His presence, simply declaring by His word that it would be so. And it was.
One day, Jesus and His disciples entered a village, and the people brought Him a blind man and asked Jesus to touch him. But Jesus took him by the hand and led him out of the village. I can imagagine that as Jesus reached out for the man’s hand, people waited with baited breath. After all, Jesus could heal with a word, with a brush of His garment. Surely as His hand made contact with the blind man’s, something would happen. But when nothing did, the crowd dispersed, probably with a fair amount of grumbling and disappointment.
What Jesus did next was even more shocking. He spit in the man’s eyes. He actually spit. And then He rubbed it in! I would assume that if there were still a few stragglers from the crowd, this would have cleared them out. Because really, who wants to see that? Jesus asked the man what he saw, and he answered, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” So Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes again. Verse 25 says, “Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
This story certainly doesn’t make the top 10 Sunday School Bible stories. It’s just not how Jesus typically goes about the business of healing people. To wait to heal the man until they were away from the crowd, to use His saliva, and to have to touch him twice for the healing to take full effect…it just seems so un-Jesus-like.
I want to offer two thoughts in response to this story:
First, Jesus was often un-Jesus-like. Even more often than performing miracles and saying nice things, Jesus was in the business of shocking people. He peered into their hearts and shattered their preconceived notions of who God is. So as soon as I encounter Jesus in the Bible and say, “That’s not like my Jesus,” I need to start looking at who Jesus really is according to the Word.
Secondly, healing is a messy business. When I have a problem, whether it’s sickness, sin, or circumstantial, what I want is for Jesus to give me a tidy little word from heaven and make it all go away. If He wants to do it miraculously and instantaneously and for all the world to see, so much the better. But more often than not, healing is a process. It’s slow. It stings. It’s messy. It’s done in the quiet, secret places of our hearts, where we can encounter Him in all our mess.
I am grateful to have a Jesus who can spit. I am grateful that He is not afraid to get His hands dirty. I am grateful that He has compassion enough to reach out again when my vision is still blurry. I am grateful that Jesus heals, in whatever unconventional ways He chooses.
Robin (Giberson) Lawrenz has been connected with Delanco Camp for 24 years as a scamper, camper, counselor, craft lady, music leader, teacher, activities director, and assistant dean. She currently lives in Boston with her husband Jason and their one-year-old son Judah. Image credit: Nicolas Colombel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.